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Is radio’s primetime over?

By Eric Tipan Published Sep 29, 2020 11:25 pm

Radio is still the most accessible medium for entertainment and information, and right now it also needs your help to stay afloat.

Your favorite radio shows are still there for sure, still dishing your fix of hits and misses—not unless their franchise was voted out by Congress as well.

I know it’s hard to tell considering that most people don’t go out or are working from home these days. You see, peak radio hours are weekdays 6-8 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. You call it drive time, we call it “primetime.”

As fewer people are driving, it’s the same with listenership. Because, let’s be honest, very few listen to the radio at home, what with a plethora of entertainment options including the resilient basic cable, Netflix, the NBA (thank goodness it’s finally back), and even Amazon Prime Video, just to name a few.

AM radio mostly deals with politics, pushing the agenda of allies, while FM radio disguises commercial agenda through DJ discussions flaunting only positive aspects of a product.

A quick check of the websites of some of the top FM and AM stations show the same sked pre-quarantine but these sites don’t reflect real-time changes. A notorious few even display months-old data on their site. If you really want to be sure, fire up the transistor radio at home.

The reason schedules have changed is due to health and safety protocols. Republika 87.5 FM1 has lessened the number of days DJs come in but increased their hours per day.

This is to reduce the risk of exposure and possible transmission of the virus while still putting in the proper amount of hours based on their compensation package.

Everyone’s favorite “Boys Night Out”’ is actually on in the afternoon (4-7 p.m.) on Magic 89.9. According to Slick Rick, instead of broadcasting from the studio, they do it live via Zoom and then patch the feed to the station, their Facebook page, Kumu, and even Twitch.

AM radio stations have also made major adjustments due to the pandemic. There have been far less on-location reporting to protect correspondents, no in-studio guests, and the more seasoned announcers who may have comorbidities have been allowed to record their voice track at home and email it to the tech in the studio, or if they can, simply broadcast live from their home.

In an extreme case, this writer’s station was shut down when a few employees tested positive, which required disinfection and sanitation of the booths and equipment.

AM stations are less concerned about social classes and age brackets. Why would they be when they get only 11% of total listenership as compared to 89% for FM radio?

Now all of us DJs and announcers know that most of you are at home and not listening, but the mandate hasn’t changed regardless of the health crisis—the densest region is still Metro Manila, which makes it the most target-rich environment in the country. As such, almost every age group and socio-economic group are in the crosshairs of every radio program. We’re literally thinking of you when we every time weW open the mic.

Stations like Republika 87.5 FM1 and Magic 89.9, zero in on teens in the ABC social class and try to keep them listening well into their young professional life. Others like retro station Capital 104.3 FM2 cater purely to Gen Xers in the ABC market. 90.7 Love Radio, MOR 101.9, 102.7 Star FM, YES FM 101.1 and many others with the same format fight over the biggest slice of the radio market pie, the DE social class.

Based on the most recent survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 58.4% of Filipinos belong to the low-income DE class, the middle class (spread out between BC) makes up 40%, and the remaining 1.4% is composed of the A class.

AM stations are less concerned about social classes and age brackets. How can they be when it only gets 11% of total listenership as compared to a whopping 89% for FM radio? With that small a market share, they’d want to cast as wide a net as possible.

And that’s the great thing about AM stations, its mass appeal. As it’s not fixated on a very specific demographic, it has a broader stroke that attracts a wider market of listeners interested in news (sports and showbiz) and current events (MMDA, DOH, PCOO, DOTr, etc.). AM listeners are not necessarily older, but rather are people who prefer and value information more than music and funny one-liners.

It isn’t surprising then that people still rank radio as their most trusted source of political information.

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With fewer people driving weekdays 6-8 a.m. and 5-7 p.m., listenership has gone down

Which brings us to the era of fake news.

Having been in this industry for close to 30 years, let me tell, it’s not as pervasive as it is online. Yes, there are a few bad apples (what industry doesn’t have any?) but it’s still generally an honest outlet.

What you do hear a lot on the airwaves is propaganda, both political and commercial in nature. These are incomplete pieces of information, while they’re true they depict a biased scenario favoring the source.

AM radio mostly deals with politics, pushing the agenda of allies, while FM radio disguises commercial agenda through DJ discussions flaunting only positive aspects of a product.

Should you hear these rotten-to-the-core announcers spout fake news, propaganda or what we in the ‘80s called plain bullshit, fact-check it on websites like Tsek.ph and VeraFiles.org.

The densest region is still Metro Manila, which makes it the most target-rich environment in the country.

Unless you do, chances are high you might end up sharing it verbally or via your social media outlets. Fake news, just like COVID-19, is highly transmissible.

What’s worse is you end up forming an opinion and making decisions based on false information. It’s one thing if a telco company has DJs say how fast their lousy 4G service is, but quite another to have a corrupt politician lie through his teeth in a radio interview to get your vote.

Be wiser with how you process the news that you get. With the distress this raging pandemic is causing, we all need facts, the truth.

Legit news outlets have become harder to come by with the closure of ABS-CBN so listeners have to step up and do their due diligence. Fact-check, audit, scrutinize, and ask questions.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Moral of the story is, keep listening and supporting your favorite station, show, and announcer/s. Radio is still the most accessible medium for entertainment and information, and right now it also needs your help to stay afloat.